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Himalaya

Day 114: Paro

Michael Palin - HimalayaAfter two days at the tsechu I take back all I said about Bhutan being an empty country. It feels as if, apart from two or three people left up in the mountains to look after the yaks, the entire nation is here in Paro. At certain times of the day, it's queuing only on the elegant covered footbridge leading across the river and up to the dzong. I've heard rumours of over-booked hotels with tourists having to camp out in the grounds.

Dust rises from the crowds wandering through the temporary market, which has spread between the dzong itself and the out-buildings nearby, where much of the dancing now takes place. There are makeshift cinemas and fairground games like hoop-la and even bingo. I pass a packed tent where a Bhutanese man calls the numbers in a remarkably plummy English accent.

'How do you do? Three and Two.'

Nearer the dancing, every inch of grass is taken up by picknicking families, many of whom look as if they have come down from the mountains. They unroll portions of seasoned pork and chilli, mushrooms and eggs and drink butter tea from thermoses. For them, tsechu is both pilgrimage and party.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 114: Paro
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Paro
  • Book page no: 258

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